By Robert W. July
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Additional resources for An African Voice: The Role of the Humanities in African Independence
It is not our common color but our common experience as a colonial people. And what has colonialism meant to us, but a denial of our own self, a refusal to admit the humanity of the black, an unwillingness to allow him his presence in the world as a human being, as a man ? We are united by this colonialist oppression, and we are united by our common culture, which that oppression has sought to destroy. This common culture, Cesaire continued, is a product of social forces, including language, but its health relies on freedom of expression; a colonial regime that suppresses the self-determination of a people will surely kill that people's creative power and with it the people's culture.
Nigeria itself was a case in point. At independence, Time magazine had voiced skepticism regarding the cohesiveness of a "land made up of 250 bickering tribal groups . . " With more charity, London's Economist wondered if independence had come too easily to fashion the bonds of unity, and there were Nigerians who agreed. "To some of us, it's been too smooth in Nigeria. Nigeria is a colony where no leader has been in jail. We consider this a stigma, really. We wish there had been a struggle . .
The former French colonies, in particular, seemed locked into a parental mercantilism that had survived and transcended political freedom. At independence, Ivory Coast President Felix Houphouet-Boigny, among others, paid elaborate compliment to the wisdom and bounty of France, and, indeed, he had much to be thankful for. Two years earlier at Abidjan, Houphouet had opened a $6 million bridge paid for by France, and with independence, it was said, the departing gift of former rulers was an elegant presidential palace raised at a cost of $17 million.